The German 88mm anti-aircraft gun became notorious when used as an anti tank gun.
In prepared positions when it was well dug in it was very difficult to hit.

On the 15th June the British launched Operation Battleaxe, an attempt to relieve the besieged garrison at Tobruk. A convoy of tanks had arrived just a month before and it was hoped that the newly equipped forces would have the strength to challenge the Germans.

Rommel had advance warning of the attack through intercepted British radio messages. But the British were to discover that their tanks were no match for the German 88mm gun and outranged and outgunned by many of the Afrika Korps tanks. Cyril Joly, commanding a tank in the 7th Armoured Division, was among those who had a very disheartening experience:

“Driver, halt,” I ordered. “Gunner, 2-pounder – traverse left — on – tank – German Mark III – eight five zero yards. Fire.” I watched Basset carefully turn the range-drum to the right range, saw him turn to his telescope and aim, noticed out of the corner of my eye that King was ready with the next round, and then the tank jolted slightly with the shock of the gun firing.

Through the smoke and dust and the spurt of flame I watched intently through my binoculars the trace of the shot in flight. It curved upwards slightly and almost slowly, and then seemed to plunge swiftly towards the target. There was the unmistakeable dull glow of a strike of steel on steel. “Hit, Basset! Good shot! Fire again,” I called. Another shot and another hit, and I called, “Good shot; but the bastard won’t brew.”

As I spoke I saw the flame and smoke from the German’s gun, which showed that he was at last answering. In the next instant all was chaos. There was a clang of steel on the turret front and a blast of flame and smoke from the same place, which seemed to spread into the turret, where it was followed by another dull explosion. The shock-wave which followed swept past me, still standing in the cupola, singed my hands and face and left me breathless and dazed.

I looked down into the turret. It was a shambles. The shot had penetrated the front of the turret just in front of King, the loader. It had twisted the machine-gun out of its mounting. It, or a jagged piece of the torn turret, had then hit the round that King had been holding ready – had set it on fire. The explosion had wrecked the wireless, torn King’s head and shoulders from the rest of his body and started a fire among the machine-gun boxes stowed on the floor.

Smoke and the acrid fumes of cordite filled the turret. On the floor, licking menacingly near the main ammunition stowage bin, there were innumerable small tongues of flame. If these caught on, the charge in the rounds would explode, taking the turret and all in it with it.

See Cyril Joly: Take These Men .


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Categories 1941

It was usually one of the quietest streets in the town of Tartu. But today people were moving about in small groups and talking furtively and looking very scared. And there, just before me, a lorry passed on the street. There were three uniformed men in it. An N.K.V.D. man, a soldier with a rifle and a militia man together with some ten or twelve civilians…men, women and children. They looked desperate. They had bundles with them. Everybody on the street could not help but glance in their direction.

Twenty aircraft of the Command were despatched to attack this force, which consisted of one pocket battleship (possibly the Lutzow) and five destroyers with air escort. One aircraft scored a hit with a torpedo amidships on the battleship, and a second aircraft claimed a hit, though the result of its attack was not seen owing to the smoke which surrounded the target.

On average, some four thousand people died each month. As the poverty and hunger worsened, tuberculosis also became epidemic and wrought horrible devasta- tion up to the very end of the ghetto’s existence. It was impossible to fight. Thousands of adults and children died because they were getting no fat, no milk, no sugar.

They were fighting for something that was almost as fundamental as self-preservation – for human dignity, for the right of walking among others as an equal. And since we brought against them forces much inferior in numbers to their own, the French could not out of sense of pride surrender at once.

Oil bombs and thermos bombs were dropped amongst other things, but all, as far as I could see, with no effect at all. When ‘A’ site were heavily bombed by Stukas recently about sixty bombs were dropped on them, and very few went off. A large 250 pound bomb fell in a small L.A. A. pit and did not go off – one member of the crew got hurt when they all made a rapid bolt for it – that was all! There must be some good fifth column work in some of these bomb factories!

I dragged myself into a bit of a dip and tried to get fairly comfortable, but every time I moved, they opened up on us. I could hear an NCO yelling to me to keep down or I would be killed. I kept down. After a time (when the initial shock had worn off) the pain in my legs became hellish. My right calf was shot off and was bleeding, but I could do nothing about it, and the left leg had gone rigid.

The campaign in Syria attracted relatively little attention, partly because it was overshadowed by the invasion of Russia. The Australian 7th Division which led the invasion started to refer to itself as the ‘silent seventh’ because of the lack of publicity it received. Unexpected resistance was received from French forces loyal to the Vichy regime in France. Fighting was especially bitter when they confronted Free French troops who were part of the invading force.

Because of unusually heavy military traffic, all civilian movement was halted for several hours. You can see many different types of troops. … The situation is the same as during a war when large fighting units begin to move.

The originators of barbaric, Asiatic methods of warfare are the political commissars. So immediate and unhesitatingly severe measures must be undertaken against them. They are therefore, when captured either in battle or offering resistance, as a matter of routine to be dispatched by firearms.